rihanna_web.jpgLast Saturday, July 31, I ventured down to Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena to see Rihanna perform live, in a stop on her “Last Girl on Earth” tour. It was worth the trip.

Pop  party-girl Ke$ha was Rihanna’s opening act, and performed a slew of songs from her debut album, Animal. As the strobe lights flashed mercilessly and her cutoff-shorted male dancers did their thing, Ke$ha worked her way through frenetic dorm-room favorites “Blah Blah Blah,”  “Take It Off,” and “Your Love Is My Drug” with some awkwardness.

Though Ke$ha’s album is a pre-party favorite on my college campus, not everyone was familiar with the body-glittered star’s dance jams. Despite Ke$ha and crew’s high-energy efforts, there was a distinct lack of audience participation. At least until the lights lowered and she performed her most popular song, “Tik Tok.”

At that point, many in the crowd started “feelin’ like P. Diddy,” and finally showed Ke$ha some love.

After about an hour (a wait possibly due to the fact that Travie McCoy, the other billed opener, was a no-show), the girl we’d all been waiting for took the stage.

Though the venue was not completely full, the stadium swelled with noise as Rihanna appeared in a black dress replete with red LED lights, opening the show with “Russian Roulette.”

On the final note of the song, her fatigue-clad background dancers fired their pink rifles, and digital blood streamed down her gown. It was a bit gruesome, but in a fun way. The show was filled with violent imagery like this, which fit well with the song title, and added some edge to what could have been standard pop fare.

“Russian Roulette” quickly segued into “Hard,” for which Rihanna ripped off her floor-length electric frock to reveal a pink-sequined bodysuit. She sang part of the song from the awesome hot pink tank in front of the stage, which discharged its glitter ammunitions onto the audience as Rihanna sang.

From there, the songstress took center stage for “Shut Up and Drive,” in the middle of which she pulled one lucky fan up to the stage, handed her a baseball bat, and allowed her to have at the graffitied car upon which Rihanna’s background dancers were perched.

Other highlights of the show included “Disturbia,” for which dancers on stilts outfitted to look like gargoyles sauntered across the stage, “S.O.S”, which had nurses in gas masks emerging from the previously neglected fabulous pink tank; “Rockstar,” for which Rihanna took center stage and played the “black guitar” of the song’s chorus, and a seriously saucy rendition of “Rude Boy.”

An unexpected surprise was Rihanna’s cover of Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life,” which had most of the audience up and dancing and inspired me to purchase the original on iTunes the next day. The seeming end to the show was “Take A Bow,” which culminated in the video screens panning the crowd and Rihanna dedicating the show to her fans.

But after about three minutes of non-stop screaming from the crowd, Rihanna returned, singing the choruses of rap hits “Live Your Life” and “Run This Town,” and finishing with her mega-hit “Umbrella. ”

Overall, the show was very entertaining, and cemented her place in my mind as a very talented (and impeccably dressed) performer.